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Sister Carrie

Theodore Dreiser

Chapters 26-30

Chapters 22-25

Chapters 31-35

Summary

Now that her support from Drouet is gone, Carrie realizes that she only has seven dollars. She begins looking for work as an actress. Two theater managers tell her that, as a beginner, she should start in New York. She writes Hurstwood to say that she cannot have anything more to do with him. She tries to get work in the department stores, but they are still looking for women with experience.

Carrie returns to discover that Drouet has come to get some of his things. He had waited in the apartment, hoping to catch her there under the pretense of gathering his belongings and have a chance to make up with her. When she failed to arrive, he left, planning to call on her the next day.

Hurstwood receives Carrie's letter and resolves to win back her love. He learns that Drouet is no longer living at the apartment with her, so he assumes they have argued and parted ways. He returns to work. After closing, he checks all of the cash drawers and the safe. He discovers that the safe has been left unlocked, leaving ten thousand dollars in cash unprotected.

Hurstwood knows that Julia probably will get everything in the divorce. Even though he and Carrie could live for years on the ten thousand dollars he finds in the safe, he decides to leave it where he found it. However, the safe clicks shut while the money is still in his hands. Hurstwood has never been given the combination to the safe, so he will probably get in trouble for removing the money from the safe. He flees the saloon with the money.

Hurstwood rushes to Carrie's apartment. He tells Carrie that Drouet is in the hospital with a serious injury and that he wants to see her. She hurries out with him, and Hurstwood takes her to the train station. Carrie unknowingly follows him onto a train headed to Detroit. She slowly realizes that Hurstwood has lied to her and demands that he let her go. Hurstwood pleads with her to run away with him to Montreal. He says that he is divorcing his wife and promises to marry Carrie right away. She agrees to go with him. He says nothing about the stolen money.

Hurstwood rents a hotel room in Montreal under an assumed name. He notices a man surveying him in the hotel lobby. After taking Carrie out to breakfast, Hurstwood reads the Chicago papers. His crime is reported in a small article. Soon after, a detective accosts Hurstwood in his hotel room. He tells Hurstwood that he cannot be arrested in Canada, but that the Montreal newspapers will certainly have a field day with his story if they discover him. In order to prevent the scandal, Hurstwood sends back most of the money with a letter explaining that he was drunk when he stole it. He hints that he would like his job back. Hurstwood and Carrie marry under the name of Wheeler. Fitzgerald and Moy write back to say they bear him no ill will, but that they are not sure whether they are willing to take him back.

Hurstwood knows that Fitzgerald and Moy's indecision is a sign that they will not take him back, so he moves to New York with Carrie, who still knows nothing of his theft. They rent a comfortable flat, and Hurstwood purchases a third share in a small saloon. He finds that his partner is disagreeable and that the saloon is nothing like Fitzgerald and Moy's. However, he manages it carefully in order to earn $150 per month from it. He is forced to watch his household expenses carefully. Carrie recognizes that Hurstwood is no longer as free with his money as he had been in Chicago. He will not discuss his money matters with her, and the first seeds of trouble are sown in their relationship. Meanwhile, Hurstwood fears meeting old acquaintances in New York.

Commentary

Drouet's break-up with Carrie further highlights the performative origins of masculine power. He has been playing a charade of planning to marry her all along. However, when his promise to marry is exposed as a performance, he loses his power over her. As with Hurstwood, when his power is exposed as a function of the performance of a role, Drouet loses control. He plans to win Carrie back with a performance, returning to their apartment under the pretense of gathering his remaining belongings. When he discovers that she is not home, he waits for her, planning to pretend as though he has just arrived when she eventually returns. However, Drouet never has the opportunity to put on his performance to win Carrie back; Hurstwood beats him to it. He lures Carrie away with a magnificent performance of anxious concern for Drouet's "injury."

When she parts ways with Drouet, Carrie is once again forced to think about the means of her support. Her immediate thought is to work in the theater. She has learned that her value is determined through performance. Carrie's early days in Chicago represented the experience of the working poor. The most basic costs of food, transportation, clothing and shelter were matters of concern. Carrie's life was governed entirely by the prices of these things. Hurstwood's wealth, in contrast, allowed him to concern himself with only the prices of luxury items, and only seldom even then. In New York, although Hurstwood is forced to think about the prices of basic commodities, he is still able to keep up the show of luxury. Carrie maintains the illusion of him as someone who can free her from the need to constantly worry over the prices of things.

In Montreal, Hurstwood does not realize the predicament he has gotten himself into until the detective tracks him down. He has ten thousand dollars that cannot be taken from him as long as he remains in Canada, but his reputation is at risk. By hinting at the publicity Hurstwood's theft would receive in Montreal's newspapers, the detective is threatening something almost as valuable as cash: Hurstwood's social respectability. No matter what the money might allow him to buy, it will not keep Carrie at his side in the middle of a scandal. Furthermore, the money will not even allow him to start a business, since no one who knew of the scandal would patronize it. He thus returns the money and avoids telling Carrie anything about the theft or his financial problems.

Once he arrives in New York, the fact that he must think carefully about small expenditures like cab fare, rent, and small trinkets for Carrie hits him with full force. He has ample money to invest in another business, but he turns down many opportunities because they are too low-class or because they involve some measure of illegality. He does not want to risk another scandal by which he might lose his respectability in New York as he did in Chicago.

However, once he settles on a business, Hurstwood resumes the old game of playing the husband role, taking complete control of the financial reins. He never consults Carrie about household expenses because he is eager to preserve the illusion that his buying power is as large as it has always been. His attempt to play the role of provider is not entirely successful, however, because Carrie notices that he no longer provides her with the kind of expensive entertainment he did in Chicago.

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